Why MEN can't 'have it all' eitherThought it was just women who crumple under the pressure to be the perfect parent AND have a career Think again…
22:23 GMT, 16 September 2012
Glancing at my watch as I logged off my work computer, I smiled to myself: it was 6.30pm and, if I flagged a taxi outside work, I’d make it home for my son Sonny’s bedtime for the first time in perhaps a month.
Just then, the phone rang. It was my boss and, as usual, it wasn’t good news.
‘We’re having an emergency meeting in the boardroom, get here now!’
Let down again: Martin Daubney, former Editor of Loaded, pictured with wife Diana and son Sonny, kept coming home after his son had gone to bed
I didn’t even have time to call my partner, Diana, to whom I’d promised I’d be home before the all-too-elusive 7.30pm cut-off point.
When I finally made it home after 8pm, Di didn’t have to say anything. Sonny was safely tucked up in bed. She looked me in the eye, blinked, and tears rolled down both cheeks. ‘It won’t happen again,’ I pleaded. ‘Something came up.’
But we both knew there was always something. It was heartbreaking: Sonny might have been too young to know any different, but to Diana me making Sonny’s bedtime story was everything.
My face burned with shame. I knew I’d let her down again and the guilt was unbearable.
It was July 2010 and I was earning a six-figure salary as the editor of the magazine Loaded. I’d met many of my celebrity heroes, was friends with top models and got to travel the world for free. But I was utterly miserable. The 60-plus hours a week in the office, the constant decline of sales and having to make good friends redundant were bad enough.
But even worse was the fact I rarely saw Sonny, who was just a year old.
I was desperately jealous of Diana getting to see important milestones with Sonny: his first steps, his first word, ‘yellow’, which he just wouldn’t repeat down the phone to me at work.
I could count on two hands the number of times I’d made it home before his bedtime. To him, I was simply an exhausted, grumpy stranger, and to my wife, a part-time partner.
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I felt I wasn’t fulfilling any of my roles: I wasn’t a good employee, dad or partner.
During the past decade the debate has been raging over whether women can have it all.
We read endless articles about the struggle they have to balance their career, their family, their partners and friends — not to mention keep up with the pressure to look amazing and be the perfect size ten.
But there is very little acknowledgement of the fact that men are now facing exactly the same dilemmas.
Nowadays, on top of earning a great
salary, men are expected to come home and be empathetic, patiently help
the children with homework, then knock up a mean Thai green curry.
the weekend we’re expected to expertly wallpaper the front room, take
the children to sports classes, help with chores and train for a charity
marathon without breaking a sweat.
new male role models are have-it-all heroes such as David Beckham.
Becks not only has a stellar career and is a great dad, but in his spare
time helped win Britain the Olympics bid, has lunch with the Queen and
looks like a male model.
It’s an unattainable goal that leaves real men scratching their heads and wondering how we’re meant to measure up.
crux of the matter is that fathers now no longer define themselves
solely as breadwinners and providers — it’s as important for us to
provide emotionally for our children as it is financially.
fact, a new study by the New York-based Work and Family Institute
called The New Male Mystique has shown that more men define an ideal man
not only by his ability to support his family with his work, but by his
role as an active and involved father, spouse or partner, and son.
in my dad’s day it was very different. He expected (and got) dinner on
the table when he walked through the door, read his paper as mum
twittered on about her day without really listening, and left the vast
majority of parenting to her.
Have-it-all hero: David Beckham with daughter Harper at LA airport. It's impossible for real men to measure up to this ideal
Nothing more was expected of him: being the breadwinner was enough.
He was a brilliant provider who worked 12-hour days, often on night shifts and slept in the day. On the weekends, he was the ultimate good-time dad, but in the week he’d be a largely absent force. That’s no longer acceptable.
It’s something Geoff Conway, 41, a senior accountant from Croydon, struggles with. ‘I work more than 60 hours a week while my wife stays at home with our two-year-old daughter, Molly.
‘I’m constantly exhausted, yet she still expects me to help with the housework and nursery runs then it’s my job to have Molly all day on a Saturday while she goes shopping to Westfield with her friends.
‘I want to spend more quality time with Molly, but I’m shattered from my week and would like to have time to recover. I’m close to breaking point.’
A study earlier this month found that 75 per cent of mums would stay at home to bring up their children if they could afford to.
Another study last week showed that spending time at work is the biggest regret fathers have about their children’s early years. Combined, this is putting men under huge pressure.
Britons now work the longest hours in Europe (more than four million of us work 48-plus hours a week, and one in six regularly clocks up more than 60 hours a week).
Inevitably, we’re in the office when our children utter their first words, or take their first steps.
And it can be doubly rankling if you’re doing so to keep the family financially afloat, because your partner isn’t bringing in a wage any more.
Robert Green, 42, an HR director at a major bank, and father to three-year-old Tilly and Daisy, two, says: ‘My wife is unhappy when I work late, but she’s only worked part-time since we had our second child. One of us has to pay the mortgage and childcare.
‘I get to work at 7.30am and can’t finish until 8pm most nights. It’s not an option for me to work fewer hours so I have to carry on, but my partner hates me for it. We argue all the time.
‘I feel torn in so many directions and it’s placing a huge strain on our marriage.’
According to clinical psychologist Dr Rachel Andrew: ‘At the core of it is confusion about what the man’s role now is. Men are programmed to get rewards, be it a wage or praise. Often they look to their wives for acknowledgment and, when they don’t get that, they feel resentful.
‘Men need practical solutions that give results. Like if they help with homework and their child gets better grades — something they can see.’
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For some, part-time work can seriously de-stress a hectic family life — a study for the Office for National Statistics found half of men wanted to work fewer hours. But it’s not always an option.
Certainly, there was no way I — as a male magazine editor — could be part-time, as there was simply no precedent anywhere in my industry.
So, 13 months after my son was born, I took drastic action. I’d had enough of desperately trying to keep all the plates spinning. I knew I wanted more from life and to get it, it was clear something had to change.
I decided to quit my job. I hid behind the fact the magazine was being sold on, as admitting to wanting to spend more time with my family might have made me seem like a failure, soppy, or less of a man.
Diana and my mum were supportive, but my dad was perplexed, and many of my friends failed to accept it believing, instead, I’d been made redundant.
Becoming a stay-at-home dad wasn’t a magic solution. I tried it for six months after leaving Loaded, and it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.
My work-life balance was equally non-existent, but this time, there was no work and no life outside of being a dad — at least from 5.30am until Diana got back from work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
/09/16/article-2204180-150CA9D0000005DC-989_638x416.jpg” width=”638″ height=”416″ alt=”New Male Mystique: A man ironing his shirt. Today men define an ideal man as one who takes an active role as a father, spouse and partner as well as being the breadwinner” class=”blkBorder” />
New Male Mystique: A man ironing his shirt. Today men define an ideal man as one who takes an active role as a father, spouse and partner as well as being the breadwinner
Like many other modern families, I finally found a balance that worked for me by fitting work around the far more important job of being a parent.
We put Sonny in nursery three days a week on the same days Diana works and I work from home or go to meetings in town. When Diana is off, she looks after Sonny if I’m working. But mostly, we look after him together — which satisfies my emotional needs.
I bring in some money and get to work, which gives me self-worth. But the arrangement we’ve gone from is having ten guaranteed days’ pay a week between us to only three for Diana, as my work is hand to mouth.
I take care of all Sonny’s nursery runs and meals, get fit, have done lots of work on the house that has added thousands to its value, and I cook for Diana, so she feels less stressed about having to do everything herself.
Despite the financial issues, we are 100 per cent happier than before. I’m no longer a high-flyer, but I don’t care: the baubles of success were hollow.
To stay afloat in the modern working world you have to adapt to survive. It’s not perfect — whose life is — but it works.
And the best thing is I now not only get to see Sonny growing up, but when I walk through the door he runs to greet me without hesitating. And that feeling is simply priceless.